JOHANNESBURG (miningweekly.com) – South Africa should transition from a constitutional democracy to a “social democracy” and implement more socialist policies to retain jobs in the mining sector, suggests Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (AMCU) president Joseph Mathunjwa.
Speaking on the second day of the Joburg Indaba, on Thursday, he further suggested that government should revoke the licences of mines that are on care and maintenance and transfer those rights to junior mining companies, thereby creating or retaining jobs.
Another suggestion was that government should cap executive salaries so that more value is spread to the workers, adding that some of the yearly salaries earned by mining CEOs are “obscene”, especially in light of the country’s economic environment.
Further, he noted that government should deal with illicit flows of capital, as well as “protect” rare minerals and ensure they are beneficiated in the country.
Lastly, Mathunjwa noted that up- and reskilling workers should be a greater priority for mining companies, because mining is not sustainable, but the industries, specifically manufacturing, that are built on beneficiation, can be.
Moreover, as the South African economy has moved to a tertiary (services-based) economy, there are fewer opportunities in primary and secondary sectors.
“When it comes to skilling workers, [mining companies] aren’t prepared . . . we know with the Fourth Industrial Revolution most of the equipment will be [imported] from Europe.”
Meanwhile, he stated that mechanisation and modernisation would give unions and workers “grey hair”, because the concepts are based on ensuring greater productivity and lower costs, resulting in workers being treated as an expense, rather than people.
“With modernisation, the challenge will be how do you skill workers, how do you transition to a new way of mining without having a negative impact on humanity.”
Mathunjwa told delegates that he did not approve of the recently gazetted Mining Charter 3, stating that it was introduced as a balm for companies that have yet to leave South Africa.
“Most of the mining companies are leaving the country . . . the charter is to address the fear of those who haven’t acquired mining rights in East Africa yet.”
He emphasised that the charter could only be functional if it were part of the Mineral and Petroleum Resources Development Act, because the charter in and of itself had no provisions for recourse, should companies contravene it.
Although he did not advocate for the nationalisation of mines, he did call for a more active role by the State, specifically in terms of injecting finances into projects to protect the workforce.
Mathunjwa also suggested that the government tax valuable by-products, which he believes are being sold to generate separate revenue streams that are not reported, nor are used to reimburse workers.
He reiterated AMCU’s determination that a “decent minimum wage” is R12 500.
As a final message to international investors, Mathunjwa stated, “Don’t make money at the expense of the nation. It’s as simple as that . . . come, but make sure you pay your workers.”